Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:
Stillwater News Press. Feb. 18, 2018.
Jim Halsey, a music agent and promoter, had loaned items such as gold and platinum albums, photographs and guitars to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee. Outgoing museum director Jim Blair told the Muskogee Phoenix that those items made up about “75 per cent of the museum’s most prominent exhibits.” So, it must have come as quite a shock when Halsey pulled those items from the museum because of what he called “uncertainty” about the future of the museum.
Halsey said the decision was largely due to Blair’s exit, but the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame has seen support fade, including support for the G-Fest music concert that for the last several years has accompanied the annual Hall of Fame inductions.
To Muskogee we say, “We’ll take it if you don’t want it.”
Blair chose to resign because he didn’t think the museum, or tourism in general, was getting enough support. We can see where he’s coming from. From the outside, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and G-Fest seem like a huge boon for any city. It’s hard to believe there is a lack of passion for it.
Museums often need support, because few drive enough traffic on their own to self-fund. Stillwater is an extremely charitable community, we just have to be inspired.
Oklahoma State, as an entity, is heavy on events and is a tourism driver. Stillwater, as a community, is short on events and sparse on landmarks. Last summer, as we were rediscovering our music roots with Otto Gray and Billy McGinty – pioneers of making country and western mainstream – we couldn’t help but wonder why we don’t have anything in Payne County that shines a light on it. Many, many years later, Stillwater became a home base for a new genre of country called Red Dirt. But still, it goes largely under-appreciated and uncelebrated.
So, yes, we’re serious, if you don’t want it, we’ll take it. Maybe it could even be a nice centerpiece for downtown.
Tulsa World. Feb.19, 2018.
It’s been nearly four years since Tulsa County voters overwhelming approved sales tax funding to build a new juvenile justice centre.
Squabbles over location and price finally seem to have been settled, and it’s time to move forward.
Tulsa County Commissioners have authorized bids to go out on the Family Justice Center, and a new estimate has come in at half the original cost.
It’s been a long journey to replace the mess of a building used to heal families and correct the behaviour of delinquent youths. But, this project is crucial to the health of families and the Tulsa community.
The current juvenile bureau building, 315 S. Gilcrease Museum Road, is a community embarrassment with its cramped and outdated rooms. Jurors have nowhere to gather, and privacy is almost non-existent. We won’t even mention the flooding problem.
In April 2014, voters approved a 15-year, 0.041 per cent sales tax to fund a new building. After a difficult time finding a location, the county landed on the former Storey Wrecker Services site in downtown Tulsa, just south of the Tulsa Jail.
A first price tag presented in November 2016 came in at $83 million and, apparently, included every bell and whistle requested by employees. The latest $37 million estimate scaled back design and furnishings.
Tulsa County needs this family centre as a hub for services centred on juvenile issues.
It’s not only where troubled youths are adjudicated, but also where adoptions are approved and child welfare cases are decided. It’s a place where kids get second chances and consequences, and where families are made whole. Safe, hygienic, convenient space is essential for the people to help meet those goals.
Bids for contractors will opened March 26; construction begins in April with 18 months expected until completion. We’re glad this important project seems finally to be on track.
The Oklahoman. Feb. 20, 2018.
We’d like to say it’s surprising that the Oklahoma House of Representatives would apparently try to keep non-Christians from leading legislators in prayer, but, sadly, the Republican-led body has shown its intolerant side more than once through the years.
After all, the House is home to a member who has made a career out of railing against Muslims. Rep. John Bennett of Sallisaw has called Islam “a cancer” and an enemy of the American way of life. Last year he conducted an interim study on “radical Islam, Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process.”
The Oklahoma House once had a member who, during debate on a bill, said customers of his business “may try to Jew me down on the price. That’s fine.” When informed moments later that he had used the derisive term, he said, “Did I? All right. I apologize to the Jews. They’re good small businessmen as well.”
Then there was former Rep. Sally Kern, a staunch Christian who several years ago said the “homosexual agenda” was a greater threat to the United States than terrorism.
Thus, it’s not a stretch to think the representative who oversees the House Chaplain of the Day/Chaplain of the Week Program might encourage his colleagues not to invite non-Christians.
At a recent interfaith prayer service at the Capitol, Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, noted that new guidelines issued recently by Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks, require that clergy in the program “be from the representative’s own place of worship.” Oklahoma’s House members are overwhelmingly Christian.
Enchassi said he applied for the program in January 2017 after Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, nominated him, but that his application was denied later in the session with no reason given. Enchassi said he was stung by the rejection, understandably so, because “This is my state. This is my city. This is the place where I choose to raise my children.”
The Oklahoman’s Carla Hinton reported that in a letter to House colleagues in January, Strohm said the chaplain program “is not a platform for personal agendas, but an opportunity to ask for God’s wisdom and to speak blessing and hope over those who are often overwhelmed by the many voices that are converging upon them.” Fair enough, but certainly leaders of faiths other than Christianity can do that.
And, the men and women elected to the House were not sent there solely by Christian voters. As the Rev. Shannon Fleck, community engagement co-ordinator for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, points out, lawmakers “represent people of all faith traditions and people of no faith traditions.”
The reaction of Carl Rubenstein, a Jew who is immediate past president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, was spot on. Rubenstein called it “a travesty” and “an insult to the entire interfaith community.”
Christ said His followers should love their neighbours as they love themselves. The House would do well to follow that command.